Posted by: Vicky V | December 3, 2009

It was so big I couldn’t fit it in the oven

I’m not given to innuendo but the closest thing I’ve got to stiff and pink this week is the bumper pack of boldly-coloured craft card I bought from Rymans. Along with tubes of glitter and Pritt stick, I have been a veritable Tony Hart when it comes to taking initiative in the form of craft for the Schools Healthy Eating talk. In almost every waking hour when I should have been drinking gin and eating cream-filled brandy snaps (n.b. this combination came out on top after I spent last Saturday night trialling drinks ‘n sweet treats for myself to enjoy ver the festive season. The contenders were 1) Malibu and coffee cake 2) whisky and white chocolate pie 3) Schnaps and flapjacks 4) white wine and bacon – I was drunk and needed a change) anyway, a diversion, when I SHOULD have been spending time sampling these perfect festive highs I was mounting a range of organic fruit and veg (dirty bird, I said I wasn’t given to innuendo) on other bits of card and assembling it all into fifteen nutrition fact sheets.

None of which Karen wanted to look at and all of which Ben didn’t have the time to look at.

There was no, what my brother Spike calls “joined up thinking” or communication about this project (which, you may have forgotten since I have been blinding you with food and sexual stuff, was intended to put the agency ahead of the game by promoting healthy eating amongst secondary school kids by using our very own models as an example in the form of a talk).

The whole thing gained the momentum of an Indiana Jones boulder, this afternoon, when I found myself waiting at the gates of Bisham High School, home to the offspring of London’s media elite. More on which, later. I now have to go and recover from what happened with a delicious cream filled brandy snap. You are clearly given to innuendo you dirty bird.

Posted by: Vicky V | December 3, 2009

First rule of battle

First rule of battle is DRESS APPROPRIATELY i.e. not like me when I turned up to help Kamikaze Karen (KK for now, she is dangerously close to making it a triple situation). Instead of donning sleek black fabrics like The Dark Knight of Efficiency I opted for a casually thrown-together set of pastel shades. Nothing says serious business like a Care Bear.

So, when she fixed me with her black eyes and her boxy head (yes, it’s entirely likely that Darth Vader is her distant cousin) I didn’t have so much as a light saber to swish when she told me to “eff-off and find someone else to be helpy-helpy with”. And as if she hadn’t been rude forward slash, patronising enough, she dispatched me back to reception with orders to stop clashing with the soft furnishings.

I was in a fix.

My boss had given me orders and I was unable to carry them out.

“Do it anyway. Use your initiative,” barked Cream Horn, “And what’s with the pastels, you look like My Little Pony.”

Posted by: Vicky V | November 18, 2009

Environmental issues

As I sat in Cream Horn’s office waiting to have my head cut off for practising Eastern relaxation techniques, I wondered if it might just save us all the time if I just walked the plank from her outsized window onto the street outside.

It was only a three foot drop so I’d escape unscathed and, more to the point, spare myself the humiliation of Karen’s gloating and pitying looks as I walked past her desk having been given my marching orders. Nothing, bar a night in the sack with Zack, would give the scheming heifer more pleasure.

As it turned out, the only thing I needed to worry about was having badly positioned myself in CH’s office so that Zack could see my backside through the glass walls. This would have been absolutely fine, excellent even, if my size-too-small cerise silk g-string hadn’t cut into my hips and caused my hip flesh to overflow like some kind of fat river. Zack’s look of dismay (and utter disgust) was reflected in CH’s Breakfast At Tiffany’s mirror opposite me and I resolved to start non-competitively running again.

CH caught me looking in the mirror and said I really needed to reduce the time I spent navel gazing because Ben could do with some research support for the Schools Healthy Eating talks. Turns out Karen hasn’t had enough time to really, you know, “focus” on this subject what with her heavy workload (yes it’s completely exhausting having your hair blow-dryed at the salon round the corner in between having long lunches with models who don’t eat) so she was calling in the reinforcements. I was going to need my own reinforcements to survive working with Grande Negativo Ben so I made a mental note to raid Mum’s valium drawer.

Still, the upside was that I still had a job, my days would be marginally more interesting and if Karen’s hair keeps on looking so good maybe people will start to suspect it’s about as naturally occurring as she is.

So, I was in tres jolie spirits when I joined Team Wedding (Suze, Ian, Gabriella and Ian’s friend Thingummy) for a vodka and wedding debrief after work. But my spirits dropped like a Ming Vase on a windy day when I discovered we were headed for dinner at a dim sum restaurant. Dim Sum = sharing food= my idea of hell on a par with “being denied food completely”.

The reason I don’t do sharing is that, growing up, there was always food on the table. But not for long. You had to move fast otherwise you went without. Brother Spike took particular pleasure in distracting me with pretty things while he nicked all the potatoes. It took months of jujitsu lessons to outwit him. So, in sharing situations nowadays I am haunted by the fear that people will steal my dinner and, knowing that polite society would judge me greedy at best, troubled at worst if I acted on my natural instinct to eat the whole table, I temper these instincts by eating almost nothing.

Dinner was disastrous as I expected. The pressure to comply and lack of food left me with no energy to contribute to Team Wedding. After the wontons I started to wonder whether Gabriella, having learnt my history of sharing food through Suze, had suggested dim sum as a tactic to make me look bad. But then I persuaded myself that the low blood sugar was just making me paranoid… at least that’s what Mum used to say when I claimed Spike was putting worm powder in the potatoes so I wouldn’t eat them.

Everyone else seemed very happy to share. In fact Gabriella was so effing happy about sharing that she insisted on chopping up the last tiny dumpling into five even tinier pieces. This made me want to scream because if they hadn’t been so self absorbed they would have noticed that I’d barely eaten and that the decent, truly sharing thing to do would have been to sign that whole tiny dumpling over to me before I fainted.

But, every cloud and all that – I said my goodbyes, having contributed nothing but a telephone number for portaloo hire, and high-tailed it to the nearest gastro pub. Then I ordered up several “sharing plates” and scarfed the lot in lonely but happy abandon. High on chicken wings and houmous, I was struck with an inspirational lightning bolt and spent the next hour writing copious notes on how who you eat with has a huge impact on what you eat. It was a stroke of research genius for the Schools Healthy Eating talks; why would a school kid tuck into a nice big cream cake if everyone around it was obsessed with eating carrott slithers?

CH is going to be delighted she didn’t make me walk the plank.

Posted by: Vicky V | November 6, 2009

The thing about Buddha

There just isn’t enough time to meditate. It was alright for Buddha, it was his job. He had all day to choose the accessories he needed for a good think. People were probably queuing up round the block to offer him the latest in joss sticks and I bet he spent weeks auditioning the less tone deaf of his friends to chant in the background. And on top of all that he probably had a massive cave to put all his accessories in, having first given it a spring clean of all other distractions like primitive cave paintings or damp.

I, on the other hand, do not have the time to find anything other than the cheap patchouli joss sticks that remind me of up-chucking in my kettle as a student, a pair of too-small tracksuit bottoms that give me a draft out back and the Enya cd I bought the day before Woolworths went under. I’ve got a fridge that hums like a church choir and an Italian neighbor who argues with his wife so loudly that I feel I am only ever a stone’s throw from a crime scene.

But then I figured, all that noise and distraction is just “modern life” isn’t it? It’s not like it’s going to change and I can’t very well wait for the next cave to make itself available. So I decided to make do and mend, as they said in The Blitz and now they say in The Credit Crunch. Today I elected to integrate the principles of meditation into my working day by observing things in a calm, dispassionate and non judgmental manner.

AMAZING what you notice when you’re trying not to notice anything. Here is the list of things that got on my wick:

1. Woman checking out her reflection in the window of the bus for a whole 22 minutes. I timed it because it’s not like you can read a book when you’re meditating.
2. Karen winding herself around Zack’s leg like a Siamese cat that pole dances in its spare time.
3. Zack clamping Karen’s butt cheeks like he was testing an expensive sofa.
4. Bernard hovering around Zack and Karen like some of their glamorous skin cells were going to rub off on him then trying to find somewhere to hide the chocolate covered rice cakes so he wasn’t tempted when his blood sugar levels slumped at 4pm
5. Bernard making 6-10 visits to his secret stash of rice cakes at 4pm.
6. Karen closing her office door and pretending to do some work when all she was doing was making appointments to have her hairy face waxed.
7. Zack licking the top of his yoghurt pot. U.n.a.t.t.r.a.c.t.i.v.e

As I sat at my desk all I could see was flirtation, corruption, vanity and a barely concealed eating disorder. I’d read in my Buddha book that I should be observing the simplicity of nature but how was I supposed to do that when the most natural things in the office were Karen’s hair extensions?

So I headed to the kitchen where at least I could open a window and feel the fresh breeze on my face. I made myself some tea, sat down and tried hard to think of nothing. I was (calmly) making a mental list of what I needed to buy at the shops that night when someone made a real commotion as they harumphed into the kitchen. But I did not open my eyes nor move from my quiet place even when the person muttered something about me being an environmental terrorist for keeping both the window and the fridge door open in the middle of Autumn. By that time I’d recognized the voice as belonging to Ben I’d decided I definitely wasn’t going to break my spell for that grumpy git, not even to explain that it’s much quieter with the fridge door open as it doesn’t hum as much. Then he starting yammering on about how if I was trying to cryogenically freeze myself, it might be better to do it out of office time.

But I still did not move a jot and I just let his ramblings float by. At some point I must have fallen asleep because then next thing I knew I was being shaken out of my relaxation and dragged to Cream Horn’s office by the scruff of my neck.

Posted by: Vicky V | October 24, 2009

Spiritual flu symptoms

I said Suze, look, I’m going to drop the whole Bernard situation, like a bag of knives. She choked on her gin with a slice (hold the ice) and was like a) that’s an unsual thing to drop, all I can say is don’t lose your toes in the process and b) what are you, ill? Where’s your fighting spirit?

I said Suze, the truth would stir up a hornet’s nest in the office and make things so uncomfortable that I’d have to leave. This would be problematic because although the economy is sprouting some green shoots (whatever that means, the last time I saw a green shoot was on my rotting bulb of garlic) the jobs market is still dire and it would be hard for me to find anything to pay the bills. Besides, I said, I have elected to pick my battles.

But she was all like come on Vicky, you can’t let bullies get away with stuff like that. This is a battle worth picking.

Nothing like a best friend to put your spiritual flu symptoms in the spotlight. Maybe she was right. Where was my fighting spirit?

I went for a walk along the river to see if I’d left it there. Maybe I’d bump into the cast of several romantic comedies all trying to do the same thing.

I took my place on a bench near Waterloo Bridge and waited for Jesus or alternative non religious spirit guide to turn up and give me the answer to ever lasting happiness. Some time passed and it occured to me that maybe I actually was in a film of my own life and here I was, at the bit where everything is a bit rubbish for the heroine –rented flat that smells of beans, no boyfriend, painful unrequited love, no career prospects, an identity crisis and podgy tummy – until a man with broad shoulders and the same set of modern issues as me rocks up to my bench with a bag of caramelised peanuts, Surfjan Stevens on the stereo and spare pair of cashmere gloves to deal with the biting wind of Autumn and life in general.

When I could no longer feel my feet and internal organs, I elected to leave this rather slow film on the basis that it could take years for Jesus and my future husband to find me here. Unless they had both been sitting next to me all along, disguised as a mad tramp (speaking in tougues) and a kid with a death wish (ketchuppy fingers near my new J Brand jeans, I don’t think so buddy).

Then I looked at the booksellers under Waterloo Bridge and I thought, one day those people had an idea to sell some old books under a bridge. I don’t know what the circumstances were that led them to make that decision; why they chose books over cakes or clothes or religion or stress tests at London tube stations. The point was, they had an idea and from where I was standing it looked a whole lot better than office nemeses, the smell of the office fridge, mad bosses, empty staplers and commuter’s armpits at 8.32am every morning.

I have ideas. I just need to find the centrifugal force in my salad spinner, the bit where I’m the sun and everyone else are the planets that orbit around me, the film where I’m Robbie Williams and everyone else is the audience and sound mixer and the person who puts Fijian water in my dressing room.

So I went to a shop in search of my inner salad spinner and purchased a mat, some comfortable clothes, a candle that smelt like cut grass and some ear plugs in preparation for some hard core meditation.

I can’t say my first attempt at zen like calm was a box office success. I concentrated on the words “battle”, “salad spinner” and “planets” until I fell asleep and dreamt of a sci-fi scenario where King Radicchio kicked the crap out of his arch nemesis Sir Iceberg before they both got blown to bits.

Nevertheless, I decided to try meditating again in the hope that one day it might bring me closer to the bit in my film where everything starts going right. “Going right” would be me (aka the heroine) turning on my Christian Louboutins and riding into the sunset with an impossibly handsome young buck, having wowed all her friends and family with her major achievements…. I have a feeling Buddha might find this all a bit materialistic so I might just keep it to myself for the time being.

Posted by: Vicky V | October 20, 2009

Bernard the Betrayer

Karen reaching new heights in a pair of Top Shop caged heels. Cream Horn reaching new widths in a Marc Jacobs jacket that would give Crystal Carrington a run for her money. Ben reaching new lows in a black beret and boat shoes a la depressed French poet. Bernard doing his best to reach anything as I supportively move the pastries out of his fat-boy-in-a-thin-boy casing’s reach.

So far, so morning staff meeting.

Then CH announces that the agencies rising star, Lydia Markhova would be representing the agency’s ethical interests, like Geri Halliwell does for the UN. Really? I said, with no actual words, doesn’t Geri just swan around in saris and regional costume trying to make really religious countries forget that her arse used to hang out of a union jack?). Lydia would make a start by visiting the local comprehensive to lecture on healthy eating thereby putting the agency ahead of the competition by making it look proactive and “current” (size zero, size twelve, pass me a Big Mac, debate) while at the same time staking our claim on all the ugly duckling school kids who might turn into swans and become “The Next Mossy”. And we have Karen to thank for this excellent idea which will be executed under The New Faces Programme with Depressive Ben at her side.

Oh how typically THIS OFFICE. That whole UN ambassador thing was my idea, conveyed to Bernard in a Cosmopolitan fuelled high at London Fashion Week.

I collared Bernard The Betrayer after the meeting (N.B its hard to collar a man who wears trendily slim collars. I should have lasooed him like a naughty dog instead) and demanded he spill the beans. He looked very scared and apologetic, like he’d already played the error of his ways through in his head, a million times over, like some guilty nun. And then he cried a bit and said he’d passed the idea off as his own, not thinking I’d mind because I seem to have lots of good ideas.

Bernard, I said, you own 83 pairs of skinny jeans but you don’t catch me rootling around in your wardrobe and helping myself without your permission. It’s beside the point that I would never wear skinny jeans with saddle bags the size of Butch Cassidy, but you get my point. He did, and cried a bit more, then said he’d reveal all to CH immediately and buy me biscotti for a week. I said that’s fine about the biscotti but no Bernard, there’s no point in revealing all now; Karen will look like a tool, you’ll look like a fool and I’ll look like a snake in the grass and we’ll all suffer. Then I’ll suffer some more for making Karen look bad.

So, I elected to let my good idea be ridden by a gun-slinging villain out into the sunset. I will be zen. After all, I have lots of good ideas and it’s the source of the waterfall, not the toxic pond at the end that counts.

I am a tortoise and I will find a place that sells trip wire so that when a hare like Karen comes along… No you are Good Vicky Hunting and have not need for trip wire.

Posted by: Vicky V | October 16, 2009

Hutchence Syndrome

If someone covers their eyes with their hands and peers at you through a 10mm gap, you are either wearing too much neon or doing something embarrassing. And unless you direct traffic, it’s more likely to be the latter. Take the time Kylie went all blonde-sexy-chained-rocker after dating Michael Hutchence. I was peering through my fingers begging her to stop but then it irked me that she’d undergone an evolution for some man. Sexual Hutchence maybe, but he was still some man. Mostly, I was a bit like “stop trying to be something you’re not, Kylie”.
My brother Spike was hit by Hutchence Syndrome when he started working in banking. It was around the time we stopped getting on. He went from geeky funny boy with a passion for Super Mario, to institutionalised moron, over night. Now, he is an embarrassing collage of all the things he finds impressive and glamorous; a pair of salmon chinos here (his multimillionaire boss wears them everyday) a Frankie Say Relax tshirt there (the captain of his rugby team wore one last year in as part of the ironic 80s revival) and always a quiff in recognition of Mark Lamarr’s irritating early days on The Word.

Anyway, chinos don’t look good on men with a bit of weight on their hips. Particularly when paired with a quiff. Spike looks and sounds like a character from The Beano.

So this new female-manager- of- the- football -team -girlfriend is the latest addition to his moronic collage of other people’s influences. He’ll have competed against every one of his friends and every member of the football team just so he can say he was The Chosen One. I bet he doesn’t even know what borough she lives in. Or maybe he’s trying to buy the whole neighbourhood with his bonus, just to be like his boss.

Bernard is another one who could do with just being himself but, unlike Spike and Kylie, at least he’s honest about it. He shouldn’t be in fashion and he knows this. He should be cooking or photographing food. He talks about biscotti, muffins, coffee and stews in pornographic terms. But the problem with Bernard is that he was the fat kid who got bullied at school and in order to avoid those days repeating themselves, he’s gone into an industry where no one eats. The net effect is that he’s a pair of whittled square pegs in the round hole that is fashion. Why am I telling you this? Because I don’t want to judge him too harshly when I tell you what happened next.

Posted by: Vicky V | October 14, 2009

A bit of How’s your Aunt

Mum was on Mission Desert Storm today.

She ambushed me at work, four minutes after my arrival, by calling through on a withheld number and showering me with sniper fire about my time with Aunty L.

“So, what did she tell you?” Straight in there, with the aggressive speed and ferocity of a woman who consistently underestimates the effects of five cups of espresso before 10 am. (N.B Aren’t Mums supposed to say stuff like “Can I drop you off a basket of feta and olive scones? Or, why don’t you let me take you out for lunch and lend you my wisdom about the world, without any judgement or condescension whatsoever?”)

“Nothing really, we spoke about me,” I replied, in a very calm manner, telling myself that just because my mother is mad, doesn’t mean that I am mad. Telling myself that she’s about to start drawing a pension so I should value what little time she has left by being patient.

“Oh don’t be silly Vicky, tell me what she said. A conversation about you can’t have taken longer than a New York minute. You don’t do anything.”

I’m not THAT patient.

“Well, if you must know, Aunty Lesley has a couple of lady lovers on the go at the moment. One is ‘under wraps’ because she’s married to some man who works for the government. Then last week she got a call from a man who sounded like David Cameron, asking her to go on an undercover trip to Russia.”

There was a silence long enough for me to finish a few e-mails and then, as I was about to hang up, I heard a gush of steam which could only have come from the Gaggia.

“I have always wondered if she was a spy. It would explain why she never tells me anything,” she said.

My head hit the table with a thwunk and Bernard pushed a biscotti under my nose.

”I’ve got to go, I’m at work”. I sounded irritable. I WAS irritable. So what if she was about to get her Freedom Pass? She’d had a good innings already.

“Don’t get snappy with me young lady. I’m trying to juggle a million things, not least this tiresome Gaggia machine. I’m coming round to pick up the Black and Decker for your brother. He’s sprucing up his bachelor pad now that he’s stepping out with the manager of a football team. A woman manager, not a man manager, in case you were wondering. She’s feisty and gorgeous, apparently. You’d have to be to compete with all those men in the workplace”

“She’s hardly competing with them on the pitch, Mum. I’m going now, I’m hanging up.”

“Don’t be sarcastic dear. Now, I must go, I’ve got to clean this coffee machine. It’s very high maintenance.”


Posted by: Vicky V | October 10, 2009

Socially Compromised Aunt Lesley Part 2

Only Mum would throw a party for someone who hates people, so confident is she in the power of her tuna vol-au-vents and sparkling conversation about “the bloody gorgeous” deity that is David Cameron, to bring people together. Newsflash. Her attempts drove an even bigger wedge between Aunty L and the villagers.

Much to my Aunt’s irritation, Mum started off by getting her jif-soaked hands on the cottage. She scrubbed and soaked everything in sight including Ernie, Aunty L’s pet cockatoo, who she tired to brush using a toothbrush soaked in sunflower oil “to give him a nice party sheen like David Cameron”.
Closest example of how my Mum wants her own hair to look
Ernie doesn’t do “party sheen” and pecked Mum’s wrists to shreds before slipping off his perch into a bowl of sesame seeds. Mum laughed it off by saying “how quaint, he looks like he’s been tarred and feathered” and Aunty L looked like she might throw her sister in the kiln and turn her into much more useful cereal bowl.

As people started flooding through the door at exactly 1pm, Mum started hyperventilating. I thought it was just the amount of hairspray she’d used until I heard her muttering something about only expecting “max 15 including the vicar and his dogs”. She hadn’t been expecting all 100 villagers to the party because my Aunt has “absolutely no friends” and it all quickly turned into a high state of emergency because there weren’t enough tuna vol-au-vents to go round.

Aunty L was appalled by the number of people trudging through her house saying “they are just busy bodying about because no one has ever been invited into my cottage for tea and seasonal sponge cake. They all think I’m part of a terrorist network with a sideline in pottery.”

After we’d got through what food we had, and Disc 1 of The Ultimate Movie Music Collection (including the theme music from Last of The Mohicans. Mum thought it would be rousing. I think that’s a whole hour of listening I’m never going to get back) I was relieved to be pushed out of the cottage to buy as many Mr Kiplings as I could get my hands on. It meant I could call Suze and find out how the brainstorming was going. “Absolutely ace thanks Vick, Gabriella is having some great ideas like an ironic Posh and Becks remake with the thrones and everything! Totally ironic, mind.”

Relief was replaced by panic. That’s a rubbish idea for a wedding. I should be there with my flip chart and pens taking control of the situation, guiding proceedings away from yawn Posh and Becks towards Take That tribute bands, Lady GaGa and spit roast deer. So Suze may be a vegetarian who loves reggae but the point is that I’d be the one standing up and asserting my role as best friend.

I was drawn back to the party by the sound of a glass being chinked. Aunty L was about to make a speech. Mum went about maniacally smoothing her helmet head, obviously preparing herself to be thanked effusively for all the support she’d given her sister in the past few years. But instead she looked like she’d been slapped in the face with a wet haddock when my Aunty, pulling the straps of her dungarees like a policeman, said,

“Right you lot. I think it’s time you stopped fishing under my sink for semtex and buggered off. I have a date with my Potters Wheel and I need to repair the fence around my training camp out back.”

Quite an awkward silence followed. I was the only one who seemed to find it funny as people drained the dregs of their glasses and filed out saying things likely “wholly inappropriate” and “it’s a shield you know”.

Mum was terribly put out and once she’d cling-filmed all the unused Mr Kipling, she left in a whirlwind of “so bloody ungrateful.”

I stayed behind to help put things back to their usual state of mess. While toppling over a pile of magazines I confided in Aunty L about my anxieties about Suze and Gabriella.

She didn’t say anything other than “Just be yourself Vicky”

Easy for her to say. The last time I was “myself” I ended up exactly like her. A social pariah, an outsider. Like John Wayne. Or Easy Rider Or Swayze, Lowe or Estefez in The Outsiders.
No, I have to find a way to get through this thing without being my competitive self. I promise myself that much.

Posted by: Vicky V | October 9, 2009

Socially Compromised Aunt Lesley Part 1

“Socially Compromised” is a label my mother gives her sister because she doesn’t understand her. I’m not saying I do, particularly, but at least I accept all that is different and, quite frankly, loveable about her. Every day she wears the same yellow and red striped Osh Kosh Bagosh dungarees left over from her days as member of a cult in Sao Paolo. Being a potter who loves cooking and animals, her cottage smells interestingly of clay, onions and bird food; like a damp restaurant with a pet shop above it. Above all, though, I love my Aunty L’s honesty. Or, as Dad likes to call it, “downright ruddy rudeness”.

Mum calls Aunty L everyday “just to check you haven’t fallen down the plughole”, and can expect 1 in 10 calls returned with a cursory “the plugholes in my gaff haven’t functioned since 1973 so stop worrying about me.”

But a bit like Henry Higgins, Mum won’t leave Aunty L alone until she has re-made her in her own image. To Mum, Lesley is a lab rat who needs to be prodded and poked regularly to see if she’ll come out into society and give us all a turn in “something other than those lesbian trousers”. She wants to introduce Aunty L to a nice middle aged man “someone who’s ten years younger than you so you die at the same time” and for Aunty L to get involved in a good game of boules with the villagers.

But my Aunt prefers solitary confinement with only her pet bird, homely but messy cottage and potters wheel, for company.

For all of Lesley’s protestations I privately think she likes being worried about. Otherwise she’d have moved further than the next village away from Mum. Not that being in a village serves any social function for my Aunt. She is an enigma to all its inhabitants because no one ever sees “the real Lesley”, instead making do with decorating their kitchens with her artwork and lines of crockery that are snapped up at the village craft shop like it’s a John Lewis clearance sale.

Mum thinks the pottery popularity is because my Aunt keeps such a low profile; “She’s like that Kate Moss. Never does an interview.” I think it’s because her pots are just really good; big, bold and colourful. Not the kind of thing you’d want thrown at you in a fight but just the kind of thing you’d buy for someone you really liked.

So about six months ago, my mother’s Henry Higgens persistence paid off. Aunty L agreed to have my mother host her sixtieth birthday at her very own cottage in the village, perhaps hoping that my mother would stop hassling her if she allowed her this one indulgence. On the condition that Aunty L wasn’t made to wear any “floral crap”, Mum went about instituting her “open house canapé cocktail bash”.

And all during the weekend I was slowly being ousted as Suze’s best friend by effing Gabriella.

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